Solving The “Big Data” Challenge for Forest Managers and Owners

Foresters are in a data-based business, but don’t have sufficient levels of data to make data-based decisions
Having worked in over 35 countries around the world over the past 12 years, we have seen first hand the difficulties foresters encounter when attempting to make key management decisions, such as; what species to plant, when to clearfell and what log products to cut.

Foresters are forced to make decisions either based on experience or growth models. They do not have enough data or the right data to enable them to make the right decisions.

The cost of collecting or acquiring forest data has also been a problem for the industry and decisions without proper data cannot be relied upon to improve profitability and sustainability.

 

Innovation in forest technology
There has been an unbelievable rate of innovation in the Agtech world. The industry is being transformed as a result of rapidly evolving new sensors and technology systems, in what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Mega-trend technologies are converging such as big data, cloud technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver new levels of data and information. Dramatic increases in computing power, improved networking and data analytics are leading to greatly improved business performance.

At Treemetrics, we are in no doubt that the same transformation will happen in the forest industry, but two things must happen for this change to occur;

1. Foresters need more and better data, to make better decisions;
Recent history has shown that the cost of man power is increasing whilst the cost of sensors and ICT is decreasing.

We recognise that one of the major challenges for foresters is to choose sensors wisely and decide which data they should capture given the cost constraint associated with collecting nearly all forms of data.

Over the years we have pioneered the use of new technologies and continually pushed boundaries to leverage the latest technologies, enabling foresters to overcome these challenges.

Technologies such as Terrestrial Lidar, Aerial Lidar, Satellite Imaging and Drone based imaging, are now making it much easier for foresters to collect and manage data.

There has recently been an increasing level of innovation in these technologies.

Figure 1. Leica Geosystems BLK 360

Leica Geosystems new BLK 360 Imaging Laser Scanner (see figure 1) is capable of capturing up to 65 million survey points in less than 3 minutes. Remarkably the scanner is only 1kg in weight which means it can easily be deployed in the forest.

This will lead to much more accurate measurement of forests and efficiency in log predication prior to harvesting. Think of the possibilities with this kind of information?

In the drone industry, new levels of centimeter resolution imagery are now possible from a very low cost base. We are using this imagery with our new software tools, which allows us to delineate the crown of each tree and the tree height.

Combining both the laser and drone data is giving new insight into the contents of the forest and we are moving ever closer to a total census of the forest.

The Internet of Things is also having a profound impact on many industries. Treemetrics has reacted to this new opportunity and we are preparing to launch a new solution soon for the forest industry that leverages this technology. We are calling this new era, the ‘Internet of Trees.’

2. A platform was needed to be developed to help make sense of this data to enable better decisions.
Over the years Treemetrics has developed close relationships with global companies and agencies such as IBM, Intel and the European Space Agency.

Working closely with leading technology firms has allowed us to predict future trends and take advantage of this technological revolution. These partners rightly predicted that lack of data would not be a problem.

Five years ago we set about developing a forest data management platform to help foresters store and analyse vast amounts of data in a secure place. This unique cloud based system was designed to take advantage of the Big Data opportunity and the Internet of Things.

Our new platform, ForestHQ was launched recently and we have secured respected early adopter customers for each of our three modules, Manage, Measure and Harvest.

Forest HQ is easily integrated with existing forest information systems. It can leverage existing data and also prepare for the massive growth in data that will come from foresters on the ground, harvest machines, drones, satellite etc.

Impact
Over the years we have observed how foresters are are being asked to do more with less resources and where time is the real enemy.

Decisions have to be made faster in a rapidly ever changing world. One of our main objectives with the ForestHQ platform was to integrate all data systems into one platform where decisions can be made easier and quicker.

We are at a tipping point where there will no longer be a shortage of data. In fact we believe the next problem lies in making sense of this data and making decision making much easier.

Decision Forestry will have a profound impact on how we manage our forests more sustainability to increase profits, reduce costs whilst delivering improved customer service.

With Forest HQ, we can confidently say that we are now delivering these benefits to customers and we are really excited to see where this new data revolution will take us.